ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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TESOL 2014 – Fostering Sustainability: Bringing the Environment into the Language Classroom

March 27th, 2014 by Dave · 1 Comment

This session is the first of two offered this year by the TESOL Environmental Responsibility Forum. If you’re a TESOL member and you would like to join the forum, please email me your name and member ID and I’ll add you to our list. In this session, eight presenters shared activities for bringing the environment into the English language classroom. The session was a great success, thanks to the work of all of our presenters!

Here are some of the materials that presenters used and / or referred to during their sessions:

  • Donna Obenda shared an activity that uses glogs to engage students with sustainability. PPT | Handout 1 | Handout 2 | Handout 3
  • Beth Russell talked about using Orion Magazine to bring environmental issues into the English language classroom. PPT | Handouts
  • Valerie Jakar told us about some activities she had done, including one using the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. PPT coming soon
  • Susan Crowley shared materials for addressing issues related to food and nutrition. PPT
  • Krista Bittenbender Royal discussed an activity for teaching the rhetoric of greenwashing. PPT and handouts
  • Earlene Gentry talked about a number of ideas for bringing environmental issues into the classroom in an Egyptian context. PPT
  • Anthony Lavigne shared an idea for using TED talks to engage students with global and environmental issues. PPT | Handout
  • Julie Vorholt introduced us to her NGO fact sheet and elevator pitch activities. PPT

Finally, please see this handout for contact information for each of the presenters.

→ 1 CommentTags: blog · global issues activities · TESOL 2014 · TESOL Environmental Responsibility Forum · the environment

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Environmental Responsibility Forum @ TESOL 2014

March 19th, 2014 by Dave · No Comments

At the upcoming TESOL International Convention in Portland, we will have the inaugural sessions of the TESOL Environmental Responsibility Forum. If you’re a TESOL member and you would like to join the forum, please email me your name and member ID and I’ll add you to our e-list.

Session Information
Thursday, March 27th, from 10:30-11:45 AM, in room E143, we have a 75-minute session entitled Fostering Sustainability: Bringing the Environment into the Language Classroom. This will include 8 presenters, with each presenter sharing an activity for bringing environmental issues into the English language classroom, presented in a pecha kucha format featuring 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This session will be full of great classroom activities!

Later that same day (3/27), from 2-2:45 PM, in the Roundtable Discussion Area of the Expo Hall, I will be facilitating a roundtable discussion entitled Part of the Solution: Making Language Programs More Environmentally Sustainable. In this discussion, participants will be invited to share their experience in bringing environmental responsibility to English language programs. We will focus on ideas for action outside of the classroom – program-level changes, projects and policies. Please join us!

I hope to see you in Portland! For those unable to attend, I’ll post materials from both sessions after the convention.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · conferences · greening an IEP · professional organizations · TESOL 2014 · TESOL Environmental Responsibility Forum · the environment

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Dale Hansen on Michael Sam Coming Out

February 25th, 2014 by Dave · 2 Comments

Michael Sam, a University of Missouri student who is expected to be drafted in the NFL, recently came out. Public reaction has been mixed, with some NFL personnel saying that they wouldn’t be comfortable having a gay player in the locker room. This video, featuring Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen, offers a powerful response to these complaints, highlighting the hypocrisy and double standards that such prejudices require. The video is quite short (just about 2 minutes) and would make a great addition to a class discussion on sports, current events or equal rights.

→ 2 CommentsTags: global issues activities · LGBT Issues · listening · video

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Valentine’s Day activity from Teaching Tolerance

February 6th, 2014 by Dave · No Comments

This Valentine’s Day activity from Teaching Tolerance provides insight into Valentine’s Day’s roots as a holiday of resistance. It also highlights the injustices that can occur during this holiday — “moments of exclusion and ostracism, assumptions of a heterosexual norm” — and draws a parallel between the ban on gay marriage and the ban on soldier marriage that may be behind Valentine’s Day’s origin. One interesting way to use the ideas in this activity with a more advanced class would be to take a more traditional Valentine’s Day activity (like this board game) and look at it through a critical lens, having students address questions like this:

  • Where, in this activity, might someone feel ostracized or excluded?
  • Where can we see assumptions of heterosexuality?
  • If a student wanted to keep their sexual orientation private, could they? Or could there be pressure in this activity for them to “out” themselves?
  • How could we change the language of the game to make it more inclusive?

Note that the link to resources on the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (part of the grade 9-12 activity) is broken. It should probably go here.

This is just one of many activities available from Teaching Tolerance. They have loads of materials on wide variety of social issues including gender equality, poverty, and civil rights.

Thanks Krista!

→ No CommentsTags: blog · bullying · global issues activities · global issues resources · human rights · k-12 · lesson plans · LGBT Issues · poverty & wealth · racism · speaking

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eLesson Inspirations by IATEFL’s Global Issues SIG

January 23rd, 2014 by Dave · No Comments

IATEFL’s Global Issues Special Interest Group just added a great new feature to their website: eLesson Inspirations. These inspirations take of the form of video clips, each accompanied by several ideas for how they could be used in a class. Five videos have been posted, and they will add new ones every Saturday.

One that caught my eye is this lesson, based on the poem “The Lost Generation” by Johnathan Reed. The poem starts by giving a very bleak view of the future, before reversing (literally) to offer hope. The lesson features 10 ideas for pre- and post-viewing activities. One pre-viewing activity that I would like to try is called “True AND False.” In it, students are split into two groups, with one group being asked to say why a given statement is true, the other arguing why it is false. The statements that students are arguing for or against are found in the poem: lines like “happiness comes from within” or “I can change the world.” Helping students see that statements can be argued as both true and false is a neat way to work on critical literacy.

This poem would also be a great addition to an activity I’ve used asking students to write global issues-themed poetry. For this activity, I like using poems that have structures that students can imitate, making this poem a perfect fit.

This is definitely a resource I’ll keep my eye on, and I encourage you to check it out.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · ESL activity · global issues activities · lesson plans · listening · poetry · speaking · the environment · video · visual prompts · vocabulary · writing

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Gratitude Activities for Thanksgiving

November 20th, 2013 by Dave · 2 Comments

As we close in on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley offers some ideas for a variety of gratitude activities. These would be great to include around the holiday, or just in general. And be sure to check out the rest of the education section of the Greater Good website. They have lots of neat ideas for teaching about mindfulness, compassion and happiness.

Thanks Ari!

→ 2 CommentsTags: global issues activities · gratitude · happiness

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Message in a Bottle (and other materials from Yes! Magazine)

November 1st, 2013 by Dave · 3 Comments


YES! Magazine just added a great new activity based on the above picture to their curriculum section. It would work well in an ESL or EFL classroom. It’s simple, it requires critical thinking, and it makes a great speaking or writing prompt.

First, show students the above picture and ask them what they notice. Then, ask them what questions they have. Next let them know some facts about the photo. You can get more facts at the YES! website, but I’ve included the caption and a few of the facts below:

caption: Donations of vinegar, lemons, water and a milky antacid are collected at several points along the edge of Gezi Park on June 2, to treat victims of tear gas.

The Turkish government recently announced its plans to raze nine-acre Gezi Park in Istanbul to build a new shopping mall. In response to the announcement, tens of thousands of protestors, who became known as the Gezi Park Resistance Movement, gathered to protect the park. Riot police evicted demonstrators using tear gas grenades, water cannons, and violence after the government banned demonstrations in Taksim Square. Supporters of the Gezi Park Resistance Movement started a Twitter hashtag campaign, and tear-gas-readiness supply donations quickly came in.

There is also a link to reading in the NY Times and a photo essay from Yes! Magazine. The lesson even includes information on how to organize a protest from Occupy Together.

Finally, the lesson concludes with some discussion questions that could easily lead into extension activities or group projects:

  1. A protest is an expression of objection to events or situations. What do you think of protestors? Have you ever protested for or against something? If so, how did you plan or organize your protest?
  2. Parks are important to cities and neighborhoods. Do you have a favorite park? How would you feel if you learned that it was being demolished to become a shopping mall or an office building? What might you do to try to save it?
  3. What is a ‘Twitter hashtag campaign’? What other social media campaigns have been used successfully? How do you use social media? How might you use social media to advocate for a cause?

This could easily be used as a standalone activity, or it could be incorporated into a larger unit. The topic is an engaging one, and as a prompt it would elicit great conversation or writing. And be sure to check out the rest of the curriculum section, the charts and infographics, and the other resources for teachers as well.

→ 3 CommentsTags: blog · global issues activities · global issues resources · human rights · pictures · politics · protests · reading · speaking · Turkey · visual prompts · writing

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Wendell Berry / The US Government Shutdown

October 9th, 2013 by Dave · 1 Comment

On a recent episode of Moyers and Company, Bill Moyers sat down with Wendell Berry. Berry is a writer, farmer and environmental activist who has been active in the US for over 50 years. The interview is pretty long (~40 minutes) but sections of it would be great in a lesson on the environment, food, business, or politics. A transcript is available, so students could read along as they listen.

In addition to the interview, Berry reads several of his poems, including one of my favorites, The Peace of Wild Things:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

A poem like this can be a great discussion or writing prompt. One way to use it would be to have students write a poem about something that causes them despair and something that brings them peace. Alternatively, students could write about how they feel in nature. I find that, with poetry activities, its useful to give students very clear models and guidelines, instead of simply saying write a poem about X.

Also, at the end of the show, Moyers gives a brief take of the US government shutdown. If students are curious about it, this video clip would be a good way to shed some light on it.

→ 1 CommentTags: animal rights · art as activism · blog · food and hunger · global issues activities · listening · poetry · politics · poverty & wealth · reading · the environment · video · writing

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Food Issues Month – IATEFL GISIG

October 1st, 2013 by Dave · 1 Comment

IATEFL’s Global Issues Special Interest Group is hosting Food Issues Month this October. They’re asking teachers from around the world to shares lessons and activities related to:

  • Hunger and food scarcity
  • Food safety and food regulation
  • Food advertising and labels
  • Meat
  • Genetically modified (GM) foods
  • Diets and food lifestyle choices
  • Obesity and eating disorders
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Food and labour issues

You can share material on their website, and they’ll be putting together weekly summaries of what people post. I’ll be sharing some ideas, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other folks are doing.

→ 1 CommentTags: blog · food and hunger · global issues activities · lesson plans · professional organizations

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Maps and Activist Poetry

September 4th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

Map of Highest Paid US Public Employees

Map of Highest Paid US Public Employees

Two quick links today. The first (thanks Rob!) is a collection of 40 maps. I love using visual prompts with students, and these maps quickly and clearly communicate a wide range of information about our world. One in particular that I liked (#17, pictured above) is a map of the highest paid US public employees by state. Another good one is map #29, which shows how the economic center of gravity has shifted since 1 AD.

I’d also like to share a like to this online collection of poetry from the Occupy movement. I have an activity that I like to do based on global issues poetry, and this could be a good source for models.

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · blog · global issues activities · maps · poetry · visual prompts · writing

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